It is truly a delight when the inspector opens the crawl space hatch and sees a nice new ground cover laid down throughout—-plus plenty of head-room—-SAAWEET!
It seems that all too often the ground cover is more like a sheet of plastic laid out with the express purpose of collecting dead vermin and rodent feces—–and assorted other varieties of nastiness—-but still better than none. To have plenty of headroom and not have to crawl on one’s belly through the whole space—-now that is luxury. This particular crawl space was divided into 3 sections and as I entered the 3rd area which was under my buyer’s condo unit—-this is what I found.
Well, I knew immediately what it was—-but for the sake of this post, what do YOU the reader think it is?
Let’s make a list of possibilities—-just to give you a sense of some of the things inspectors can encounter in crawl spaces—-as well as some possibilities that I would hope would NOT be encountered very often.
1. Sport climbing chalk, (Owner owns a climbing gym?)
2. Drywall dust that filtered down through a knot hole in the sub-floor above, (Recently remodeled?)
3. Insecticide from treatment for Wood Destroying Organisms, (House had wood destroying insects?)
4. Baby powder, (House was a day care?)
5. Lime, (Used to be a farm house? Perhaps an outhouse?)
6. Cocaine, (Not likely—-it would NOT have gotten left behind!)
7. Crushed stick of kid’s driveway chalk, (You never know where kids are going to play with chalk!)
8. Crème of Tarter, (Someone was REALLY into making pancakes?)
9. Fiberglass dust, (Previous owner used to build boats in his spare bedroom?)
10. Asbestos, (What house doesn’t have asbestos?)
11. Rice Flour, (Hey—-it’s possible!)
12. Laundry soap, (The laundry is nearby?)
13. Borax hand cleaner, (How do these things end up where they do?)
14. Rotenone, (There is a huge garden in the back yard?)
15. Diatomaceous Earth, (Ahhhhh, hippies—trying to kill bugs the natural way?)
16. Sugar, (That big hole in the kitchen floor?)
17. Salt, (You have to store it somewhere when it isn’t freezing outside!)
18. Baking soda, (The butcher the baker the candle stick maker?)
19. Titanium White artists pigment, (Former owner was an artist?)
20. Most anything, (What can you think of?)
21. Most anything white. (What can you think of that is white?)
This next picture should give you the answer.
If you picked Asbestos, from the list you were correct. These old asbestos wrapped heating pipes had been whacked by workers in the crawl space which created the friable mess below on the ground cover.
While one of the popular recommendations for dealing with these materials is to leave them alone and protect them from becoming friable, now we have a situation were the “big guns” (asbestos abatement company) may have to come in and properly clean up the mess. Perhaps the big guns should have been called in the first place.
Some materials with asbestos in them are not very easily made friable—-this old type pipe wrap is not one of them. It is easily damaged.
Here are the requisite sites for “official” information on how to deal with these types of materials in:
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (for those in Washington State—-the information is still good for all interested).
Lastly—always wear proper breathing protection in the crawl space—you never know what is in there—or even used to be in there.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspector in Seattle
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